Tuesday, May 31, 2016


A Cold, Severe, Watchful Calculation of Probabilities

Charles Badham (1813-1884), ed., The Philebus of Plato, 2nd ed. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1878), pp. 21-22:
I have known critics to be charged with making difficulties and fancying faults for the pleasure of displaying their ingenuity in conjecture. The charge shows a thorough ignorance of the very frame of mind in which a critical scholar is obliged to work: such an one well knows that, if he durst so tamper with his own sense of truth, he would most certainly and speedily injure the one instrument on which he relies for success, his judgment. Others there are who treat all conjecturing as at best an effort of wit, and a pretty pastime. Such persons seem not to have considered that, if the ἄπειρον of verbal criticism consists of changes of similar letters and compendia, transpositions, bracketings and indications of hiatus, the πέρας which is to bring these elements to a γένεσις is, not a dithyrambic ecstasy which exults in its own contortions and tosses about wildly whatever it picks up, but a cold, severe, watchful calculation of probabilities, which shuns all outbreaks of fancy as interruptions of its work. But why should any one try to expostulate with the gainsayers? Some of them are too ignorant of the language to see any faults, and therefore cannot see the use of corrections. And yet it is useless to tell them so, for they can count on the applause of the many hundred minds which they have perverted. Some have tried verbal criticism and failed; and hate the pursuit which would not gratify their vanity and yield them fame. Let us dismiss the former with:
εὐδαιμονίζων ὄχλος ἐξέπληξέ σε.
and the latter with:
ἀπόλωλεν ἁλήθει᾿, ἐπεὶ σὺ δυστυχεῖς;
Both of the quotations are from Euripides, The former is fragment 783a (Calling you happy, the crowd drove you out of your senses), and the latter is Phoenician Women 922 (Has truth perished because you are unlucky?).

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